Written by By Staff Writer
Xabi Alonso is a legend in Spain. The country’s most decorated footballer, it’s easy to see why.
Four Champions League titles, two La Liga titles, an Olympic gold medal and 11 caps for Spain’s national team, Zinedine Zidane’s 2006 World Cup winners were inspired by his spectacular free-kick.
And, in 2014, he joined Real Madrid and helped the team win a second Champions League title.
Alonso is now back home at Valladolid, who he starred for in the last two decades, three years after leaving the city.
A brief welcome from the arena announcer hints at the swagger Alonso brings, as he makes his way onto the pitch before the match starts.
Former Valencia and Real Madrid star Xabi Alonso
“He’s a character, he knows every player on the pitch and he’ll put himself in a position to make the right decisions,” said former team captain Juan Campanero.
“I think he does well at different clubs because it’s hard to make it as a midfielder. But he’s not an out-and-out No.10, he’s a much more defensive player,” he added.
Alonso started his career at Getafe in 1997, but moved to Barcelona in 1999 to join their famed “dream team” — consisting of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Samuel Eto’o.
He kept out of trouble when the club fell out with former owner, Falcao Perez, and would later sign for the main rival, Real Madrid.
And, after a disappointing spell at Chelsea, he joined the Spanish giants.
The match begins and Alonso injects movement into the play. He creates two clear chances for Real Madrid, which are denied each time, but he retains composure, having controlled the ball on his chest.
The 33-year-old midfielder is becoming ever-more impressive, but Valladolid upset the early progress of the visitors.
He also successfully passes the ball to Ronaldo, who manages to outrun Betis’ defenders but cuts the ball back into the box.
As Spain fans enjoy witnessing yet another goal from Alonso, the crowd is silenced when the midfielder crosses into the penalty area and, in the end, wide-header it just over the bar.
His second-half presence is seen as pivotal. He floats in a corner to ensure that Kroos’ header doesn’t beat Valladolid’s backline, in the 57th minute.
After Madrid miss another clear-cut chance, Alonso does the same, tapping in unmarked at the far post to celebrate.